Bharat Renewable Energy Ltd (BREL), a joint-venture of Bharat Petroleum, India’s second largest petroleum company, has initiated a program with SG Biofuels (SGB) to develop and deploy elite hybrids of Jatropha for the production of biodiesel in India.
The program’s first phase includes a crop development effort to produce high performing hybrid varieties of Jatropha adapted to unique growing conditions across the country. Additional phases include the deployment of more than 86,000 acres of Jatropha using SGB’s JMax™ hybrid seeds.
“With the genetic diversity of their Jatropha hybrid material combined with ability to produce large volumes of hybrid seed, SG Biofuels is an ideal partner to work with to successfully develop, validate and scale Jatropha as the primary source for biodiesel in India,” said Mr. M.V. Radhakrishnan, chief executive officer of Bharat Renewable Energy Ltd.
SGB will draw from the advancements of its global JMax™ crop development centers where the company is optimizing elite hybrid varieties of Jatropha through a combination of molecular breeding and biotechnology. The centers feature hybrid material from the company’s germplasm library totaling more than 12,000 genotypes. SGB will work with BREL to select, test and scale the highest yielding, most commercially viable hybrid varieties for growing regions in India, including the initial 86,000 acre deployment.
In December 2009, the Indian Government developed its National Policy on Biofuels targeting 20% blending of bioethanol and biodiesel into petrol and diesel markets. Government policy stipulates the use of wastelands to cultivate non-edible oil seed plants without affecting food security. According to the Asian Development Bank, the current cultivation of Jatropha and other non-edible oilseeds will need to increase by nearly 80 million acres to meet the nation’s biodiesel targets.
“We look forward to working with BREL to develop a thriving Jatropha industry capable of meeting the country’s significant demand for biodiesel,” said Kirk Haney, president and chief executive officer of SG Biofuels. “Our partnership is a great example how collaborations across the entire value chain – from crop science and agronomics to downstream refining and logistics – are the key to the successful scaling of Jatropha.”
Jatropha is a non-edible shrub native to Central America. Its seeds have high oil content, and can be processed to produce a high-quality energy feedstock. It can be effectively grown on marginal lands that are considered undesirable for food crops.
SGB’s integrated breeding and biotechnology approach forms the foundation for its JMax Jatropha Optimization Platform™, which draws from company’s germplasm library, the sequence of the Jatropha genome, molecular markers and advanced biotech and synthetic biology tools to allow energy companies, governments and growers to select, test and scale elite Jatropha cultivars for unique growing conditions around the world.